Fake Texts Are Easy To Create, Difficult To Detect
For lawyers, judges, juries, and investigators, discerning what’s real when dealing with digital evidence is more difficult than ever. This is due, in part, to how easy it is to create fake evidence. Specifically, a rise in fake text message apps makes it almost effortless to falsify all types of instant mobile communications – iMessage, SMS, MMS, and chat. Nearly every aspect of the text message can be fabricated, including the sender and recipient, time stamp, and delivery status.
iDiscovery Solutions (iDS) was founded in 2008, and is a professional services consulting firm that specializes in Digital Forensics, e-Discovery, Structured Data, Cybersecurity, Data Privacy, and Information Governance. Of the many services iDS provides is the ability to examine, dissect and provide legal testimony as to the validity of digital evidence produced in court proceedings.
Uncovering Fake Evidence In Litigation And Investigations
In litigation and investigations, fake texts can wreak havoc. This is not to say that you should assume screenshots of text messages are fake, but diligence and expert forensics is recommended.
Consider these scenarios:
- Hostile Work Environment – An employee claims that a co-worker made unwelcome comments, and he or she provides HR with screenshots of text messages allegedly proving the accusations. The HR team member notices that on the screenshot, the wireless carrier is not capitalized (“verizon” instead of “Verizon”).
- Fabrication and Spoliation – The blank text entry box at the bottom of the image is inconsistent with an image of an authentic iPhone interface, because all versions of the iPhone OS show the words “iMessage” or “TextMessage” in an empty text entry box, depending on the protocol that the iPhone will use to send the message. Finally, the font used in the image differs, albeit subtly, from that used to display text messages on iPhones. See ROSSBACH v. MONTEFIORE ME | No. 19cv5758 (DLC). | 20210810b65
- Inconsistent Characteristics – For instance, certain characteristics of the font and icons in the iPhone text message application will be consistent on all iPhones using OS 10. “But the image produced by the fabricator and her attorneys contains characteristics not consistent with OS 10 or any other version of the iPhone OS available on the iPhone5.” These include the icon depicting the phone’s level of battery charge; the font size and style in the header; the icons in the lower portion of the header; and the icon for the iMessage Apps feature in the footer. See Rossbach.
- Screenshot Generators for Faking Text Messaging – “Just by Googling “fake a screenshot,” every result on the first page is either a tutorial or actual screenshot generators for faking text messaging conversations. On the website “iphonefaketext.com” for example, it is possible to enter various data values, such as contact name, carrier, message content, and even signal strength. Entering in enough detail can result in a very convincing faux screenshot of a text conversation.” See Vestige Digital Investigations